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May 8 vs. New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden
Time: 7:30 p.m.
TV: Comcast SportsNet, NBCSN
Radio: 1500 AM and 106.7 The Fan FM/Capitals Radio Network
Washington Capitals (26-18-3)
New York Rangers (28-13-5)
Game 4, Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Series (Caps lead series, 2-1)
Two nights after a six-pack of penalty situations impeded their bid to take a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series with the New York Rangers, the Caps will take on the Blueshirts again in Game 4 of the series at Madison Square Garden.
New York won Monday’s Game 3 by a 4-3 count, cutting the Caps’ series lead to 2-1 in the process.
“You don’t like losing,” says Caps coach Adam Oates. “You’re down and it was a game that we could have won. We made some mistakes and we’ve got to address it. But that’s part of the life. You’ve got to figure a way to recharge it for (Wednesday).”
Washington scored first in Game 3, using a Nicklas Backstrom deflection of a John Carlson point shot to take a 1-0 lead at 4:06 of the first period. The Caps missed a chance to double up on that lead just over a minute later when they were unable to cash in on a power play chance.
That was one of only two power play opportunities the Caps had in the game’s first 58 minutes. The Rangers had six extra-man opportunities of their own in the first 26:32 of the contest. New York used two of those chances to take a 2-1 lead over the Capitals in the second minute of the second frame.
“You want to be disciplined,” notes Oates. “I think some of the calls are dicey. To be down six to one in penalties in a game, when you watch the tape it wasn’t six to one. Every game there are small calls in each direction, and you feel a little bit slighted on the calls. But obviously discipline is an important thing.”
The Caps clawed even at 2-2 on a Mike Green tally late in the second, but fell down once again when Rangers fourth-liner Arron Asham scored early in the third. Washington again pulled even on a fourth-line goal of its own from Jay Beagle, but New York won it on Derek Stepan’s deflection tally with 6:25 remaining.
The Asham and Stepan goals were – for all intents and purposes – the first even-strength goals the Caps allowed to the Rangers since late in the first period of Game 1.
“We were a little bit sloppy,” admits Caps right wing Troy Brouwer. “We would have liked to clean up a few areas. We broke down in the defensive zone a few times and they capitalized. For the most part I thought we played another good game, though.
“You want to go through the playoffs and not lose a game, but it’s bound to happen once in a while. We’re still up in the series. We’re not panicking by any means, we’re just getting ready and getting excited to play [Wednesday] night.”
Washington’s continuous parade to the penalty box gave the partisan crowd some life after Backstrom’s goal had quieted them early.
“It was a tough way to give them a lot of momentum and get their crowd into it,” notes Brouwer. “I think about eight minutes into the game we had silenced the crowd with the first goal. The crowd starting to boo them with the lack of their [power play] production and they scored at the very end of it. If we were able to hold off that PP and continue to keep up momentum the crowd would have been on them pretty good and I think the outcome might have been different.”
The Caps were 3-7-2 when faced with five or more penalty-killing situations in a game during the regular season.
“Our PK has been great for us as of late,” Brouwer points out. “But if you take that many penalties, they’re bound to get good looks, they’re bound to score. So we’ve got to continue to try to work hard without using our sticks. A lot of our penalties were unnecessary penalties away from our goal, which gives them an opportunity to try and score. We’ve got to clean up that aspect of our game, continue to work hard, continue to finish our checks but do it without taking penalties.”
Washington has outplayed the Rangers in five-on-five play in the last two games. Brouwer and linemates Mike Ribeiro and Martin Erat have played frequently in the offensive zone during this series, but they haven’t generated a goal as a trio in this series as of yet.
“We’ve been happy with our play in the first three games,” says Brouwer. “We haven’t been in our end at all and we’ve been moving the puck well, creating opportunities. We just haven’t been able to score, and we need to be able to score if we’re going to help this team win.”
Scoring three goals as the Caps did in Game 3 is usually a formula for success. The Capitals were 25-2-1 when scoring three or more goals during the 2012-13 regular season, and the Rangers’ Game 3 win marked the first time in their last 22 Stanley Cup playoff games that the Rangers had managed as many as four goals in a game.
Two-thirds of Brouwer’s line – Brouwer and Erat – was on the ice when Backstrom scored. Washington’s third and fourth lines accounted for a goal each, too.
“In the playoffs, it doesn’t really matter who is scoring goals,” says Brouwer. “We’re trying to create momentum and create opportunities for our team to get momentum and score goals. We’d love to be able to score goals; that’s what a second line is supposed to do. But as long as we’re not in our zone and we’re not getting scored on, we’re being productive.”
After Monday’s loss, the Caps took Tuesday off to recuperate and to decompress.
“It’s just a good opportunity for us to rest up,” says Caps right wing Eric Fehr of the off day. “It’s been a pretty physical series, a pretty quick series. So it’s a good day for us just to regroup and get ready for Game 4.
“Rest is a weapon. That’s what all the veteran players always say. We’re going to take it today, we’re going to watch the video and we’re going to learn from it and we’re going to be better the next game.”
New York added injured forwards Brian Boyle and Derek Dorsett back into its lineup in Game 2. Boyle was a huge factor for the Rangers in Game 3, winning two-thirds of his draws, scoring New York’s first goal and logging more than 20 minutes of ice time.
Rangers defenseman Marc Staal returned to the lineup in Game 3 after a 29-game absence because of March 5 eye injury in a game against Philadelphia. Staal skated 17:17 in his return, and his presence makes the Blueshirts’ blueline much more formidable.
Some believed that Ryane Clowe would return to the lineup for New York in Game 3, perhaps replacing Arron Asham. Asham skates less than 10 minutes a night and doesn’t kill penalties, so he was in line to be scratched if Clowe was ready to draw in. But Clowe didn’t suit up, Asham got a reprieve and the Rangers were thrilled that he did. Asham scored a key goal in the third period of Game 3 during one of his relatively rare shifts.
Rangers winger and penalty-killer Darroll Powe left Game 3 after taking a Joel Ward elbow and Powe is questionable for Game 4. If Clowe is ready to return this time, he would likely replace Powe in the lineup.
Prior to Monday’s Game 3 win, New York netminder Henrik Lundqvist had not allowed as many as three goals and won a Stanley Cup playoff game since April 15, 2009 a 4-3 win over the Caps in Game 1 of the ECQF series that spring. Lundqvist and the Rangers had gone 34 playoff games in between those two triumphs. He was 0-14 in the previous 14 playoff games in which he had allowed as many as three goals.
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